'Madden NFL 10' Passing Concepts

'Madden NFL 10' Strategy Guide

Prima Games This article is an excerpt from Prima Games' "Madden NFL 10" Strategy Guide. You can download the entire guide by becoming an ESPN Insider.

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What do we mean by a passing concept? Think of the football field as a flat, two-dimensional plane. You attack a defense horizontally or vertically along a line on this plane.

Passing concepts help simplify the reads for the quarterback by creating specific route combinations. The reason many players struggle in the passing game is that they don't understand how passing plays work. Understanding pass concepts makes the learning curve less complicated and ultimately improves the passing game. Here we discuss four of the more common passing concepts in "Madden NFL 10."

Horizontal Passing Concepts

A horizontal passing concept spreads the defense out horizontally by stretching four underneath defenders with five receivers all looking back at the QB. Each receiver may not run the same distance from scrimmage, but each fills a passing lane. In theory, at least, one will be open.

Vertical Passing Concepts

A vertical passing concept attacks the coverage vertically by sending numerous receivers deep. If the offense sends four receivers deep and the defensive coverage is Cover 3 (3 deep), then in theory one of the four receivers will be open because they outnumber the defenders.

Horizontal/Vertical Passing Concepts

Horizontal/vertical passing concepts combine both horizontal and vertical concepts by sending three receivers deep (vertical) and two receivers underneath (horizontal).

Objective Receiver Concept

The objective receiver concept defines a specific receiver as the QB's primary read on plays such as options, fades, or streak routes. These concepts can be used to get a specific receiver wide open.

Other Passing Concepts

  • Progressions: Reading progressions of your receivers.

  • One-on-One: Looking for one-on-one coverage before and after the snap.

  • Isolations: Isolating a receiver on a defender with a particular route.

  • Option Routes: Primary receiver has three different routes he can run based on the coverage.

  • High-Low Route Combo: One receiver runs a deeper route while the other receiver runs a shallow route in the same zone area. Curl Flats is a good example of this concept.

  • Flooding: Three or four receivers run routes to the same side of the field at different depths to create voids in the zone coverage.

  • Man/Zone Combinations: On one side of the field, we have pass routes set up to attack man coverage. On the other side, we have pass routes set up to attack zone coverage.

Passing Concepts Keys

  • Have a system for reading coverages in place.

  • Know the down and distance situation.

  • Use pre-snap reads -- anticipate what the defense is doing.

  • Read the pass coverage once the ball is snapped. Make adjustments on the fly as needed.

  • Think protection first, then pre-snap adjustments (hot routing, motioning, flipping, audibling), progressions, timing, outlets/dump-offs.

  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of Cover 0, Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 3 and Cover 4.

Creating Passing Concepts

  • You want to have individual routes that attack man and zone. This may not always be possible, but at least make it a point of focus.

  • Integrate certain man-beating concepts within a zone-stretching framework (such as the mesh or option routes).

  • Put man combinations to one side and zone combinations to the other. Many of the best NFL and college teams do this quite effectively.

  • Create passing concepts that beat bump 'n' run man coverage.

Common Passing Concepts Found in "Madden NFL 10"

Double Slants

This concept is designed to attack Cover 2 coverages. Two receivers on the same side of the field both run slant routes. Generally the outside receiver runs a deeper slant route, while the inside receiver runs a shorter one. The QB makes what is known as a pre-snap key read. In other words there is none of that "looking off the safety" stuff that comes on the five- to seven-step drop pass play with multiple progression reads over the middle. The QB looks at one defender and then throws the ball depending upon where that defender goes. The key read is the defender lined up across from the inside receiver. If he latches on to cover the outside receiver, the inside receiver will be open. Conversely, if the defender latches on to the inside receiver, the outside receiver will open.

Inside Cross

The inside cross, also known as the double cross concept, is an excellent passing concept that attacks man coverage by having two receivers cross each other. The two receivers will cross each other at some point over the short middle of the field. At this point they will cause a rub-off between the two defenders covering them. The rub action often leaves one if not both receivers open because the defenders run into each other. Find the open receiver and throw him the ball. There are different personnel and formation variations of the inside cross in the game. For instance, you may have the slot receiver and the tight end running the inside cross concept. Or you could have a slot receiver and running back running the inside cross concept. Regardless of which receivers run it, just know it's a very effective passing concept against man coverage.


One of our personal favorite passing concepts in the game is the stick concept. It attacks both man and zone coverage. It is a half-field read that attacks the defensive under coverage with horizontal bracketing. The passing clock is quick because the quarterback takes a three-step drop and then delivers the ball. Against zone coverage, it horizontally stretches the curl flat zone area. The play's primary receiver is not the receiver running the stick but the receiver running the flat. If he is open the ball should be thrown to him first. If the flat route is covered, then work your way back to the stick route, which should be open underneath against most zone coverages in the game. If man coverage is called with a blitz, look to throw to the receiver running the flat first. If the pass is not there, look to throw to the backside receiver running the slant.


The smash concept is very popular among NFL teams. It is designed primarily to beat Cover 2 zone coverages. It attacks one of Cover 2's biggest weaknesses, the deep outside area from the hash to the sideline. Two routes make up the smash concept: a corner and some type of underneath route, such as a hitch, that runs underneath the receiver running the corner route. If the cornerback takes away the hitch route, then work your way towards the corner route. If the cornerback drops back in deep coverage, then look for the hitch route underneath. As you can see, the smash concept not only works well against Cover 2, but it also can be run against Cover 3 and Cover 4 coverages. You will find other variations of the smash concept in the game.


The flood concept vertically stretches the defense when zone coverage is called. There are several different types of flood passing concepts in "Madden NFL 10." One of the more common flood passing concepts has one receiver running a flat, another running a 10-yard out and a third receiver running a streak route. The out route is the primary receiver for this flood passing concept. The idea behind it is to have the receiver running the flat route occupy the defender covering the flat area. The receiver running the streak route will force the pass coverage on that side of the field to drop back to cover him. In theory, the receiver running the 10-yard out route should find a void in the zone coverage where the quarterback can throw him the ball.